Last night KidThree and I went to a gathering of friends and family of her friend who died at the end of June--this was the young man who died from a rare infection, not one of the many murder victims in her circle. Both his parents, his maternal grandmother, and two of his brothers were there, along with a dozen or so young people. All shared memories of the young man, laughing about some of his funny ways and sharing the pain of his loss. I told his mother how one of my brothers died at age 18 over thirty years ago; how I've carried him around in my head ever since; how I've told my children about him and how we sometimes talk about him as though he had just left the room and would be back any moment; that every year on his birthday and on the anniversary of his death, I think of him particularly; and that every single day he crosses my mind at least once. In my head, I've aged him appropriately, given him a profession and a family, and had him enjoy the enormous pleasure of knowing my wonderful trio of girls. This young man's mother liked hearing that. She told me she didn't know if it was crazy or not to enjoy talking about her son and that it helped to know her son would not be forgotten by his brothers and friends.
I also told her that her son had promised to accompany KidThree to court when it came time for her to testify and that now, since he would not be there in person, she was going to wear his memorial t-shirt to court to feel his love and support. His parents had not known that their son had made that promise but were very pleased to know about it. His mother immediately offered to accompany KidThree in his stead, an offer that was accepted with shy pleasure, but then when I explained that we would have only a day's notice before her appearance, the mother said she would not be able to make it, as she had to give three days' notice for time off from her job. She then offered up her husband, saying he could attend. KidThree hasn't made clear yet whether she would feel as comfortable with the father as with the mother, but my guess is she will accept the offer.
It was a lovely gathering and brought back many, many memories of the time immediately following my brother's death. The difference was, my brother didn't die from an illness or an accident, he killed himself. I remember family friends coming to the house to sit with my parents, but my memories were that mostly they sat in silence. Suicide is still one of those things that many, many people have enormous difficulty dealing with. People don't know what to say about the loss of a loved one from suicide, or they may say exactly the wrong thing. The inevitable question is "why," to which no one has the right answer except the person who has died.
Over the years, I've taken to saying he died in an accident, deliberately leaving the implication that it was an auto accident. This isn't because I am ashamed of my brother or feel any stigma, but because I don't want his pain to be an object of gossip or idle conversation. He was a real person, dearly loved, terribly missed, and always deserving of respect and privacy.
So, before I change the subject, if anyone out there who knows a person who has lost a loved one through suicide, here is my suggestion: Just be there. Say, "I'm so sorry for your loss," and "I'm so sorry for his pain." That's all you need to say. So many times when tragedy hits people stay away just because they have no idea what to say--now that doesn't have to be an issue for anyone who might read this blog. Problem solved with those dozen little words.
On to this morning: KidThree had more nightmares and hollered for me at two o'clock, so there went sleep for the rest of the night. I got into bed with her and cuddled her until she fell asleep, then stayed there as I was getting up shortly anyway. I had an appointment at the blood bank at 6:30 to do an apharesis donation, my first. I've been donating blood for over thirty years now, but only recently was tested by the blood bank to see if it would be more useful to potential recipients to have me donate something other than the usual whole blood. The apharesis procedure involves taking out some blood, separating out the platelets, putting the rest of that blood back, then doing it again, over and over for about two hours.
It didn't go well. The phlebotomist went completely through my favorite vein and no matter how she tried to wiggle the catheter back to the right place, it didn't work. So, on to the next arm. In that one, she chose an outside vein, which always hurts more, at least for me. That stick seriously hurt. She was able to get the blood flow going but the vein cooperated only grudgingly, making the machine beep every time the poor woman took half a dozen steps away from me so that she'd have to come back to adjust the tubing and press buttons. After two hours and a bit, the machine only had half the usual donation and the vein decided enough was enough. So had we all. That was it for the donation. It was enough to be usable, and I'll give apharesis one more try, but if it isn't any better the next time, I'll go back to donating only whole blood. One easy stick, take everything that comes out, then let me go have my crackerjacks and juice and go home.
When I got home, I found the manager's husband and son-in-law holding a garage sale on the lawn out in front of our building. We chatted for a couple of minutes about the fun of getting rid of unnecessary things; I told the son-in-law about KidOne moving out and taking her things, then bringing back KidTwo's things, and he told me about moving into an apartment where he and his wife bought much of the existing furniture from the departing tenant. It ended up that I made a swap with the son-in-law: I took their couch in exchange for two bookcases for his mother. Yippee! I have wanted a couch for a year now (had to get rid of the last one as KidThree couldn't get into it and it took up too much space) but didn't think I would be able to afford one for months yet. Right now that couch is outside our door, as I'm working to clear space for it. It should be inside by nightfall, with the shelves leaving home tomorrow evening. It's a good thing to be on friendly terms with the neighbors.
Then I took KidThree to a church service in her hometown, services that take a very, very long time. I don't enjoy taking her there: it's a long drive, it's a long service, the bio-family never makes an effort to come get her themselves, and they make it more than clear that they do not want me to stay to the service. I wouldn't stay for the service anyway, but it would be much nicer to be the one saying, "no, thank you," than being told I should get back around one-thirty. The things I do for that girl. Today was a youth service, so she was particularly invited by an auntie and particularly wanted to go. Next week, it's back to the church in town for her.
While KidThree was at the service, I headed out to use my Borders gift card. When I mentioned the gift card at home, KidThree told me about a book she particularly wanted to read, so I bought that and Robert Fagles' translation of "The Odyssey." I will admit to also buying a cheesy romance and an equally cheesy pretzel, as I was feeling lonesome and was hungry. Neither was very good. The romance didn't help the loneliness, nor did the pretzel do much for the hunger. I didn't get "The Iliad" as the tax would have dipped into my laundry quarters, of which I only had enough to do one load in the washing machine. I need to get some things washed tonight; they'll have to hang dry.
I did have a nice treat at Borders--I came across "Goodnight, Bush." It was very, very well done. I especially loved the page that said "Goodnight to Cheney whispering 'Hush.'" I may have to go back and buy that one. Just to have to show my grandchildren, to make sure they know how much their grandmama hated, loathed, and despised everything about the Bushies and their assault on our country and our constitution.
And now to sign off and let KidThree pick my brain as she does homework. While my brain is helping her, my bodily self will continue clearing space on the living room floor for the couch.
Tomorrow the babies come, and with them, SOLVENCY! At least eventually. All things come to her who waits. And waits. And waits. And waits.